Working with teenage learners has always been –though I wasn’t there observing 80’s teenagers but I’m quite sure they were also
problematic difficult to be schooled- a matter of debate. In deed, there have been some learner group-specific problems that I’ve encountered with during my internship experience. The most important one of these problems –the one that I observed almost in every class hour- is that these teenagers are expected to study in silence and harmony while shining bright like a diamond –just like the Turkish proverb goes “çalışan kazanır elması kızarır”-. However, the reality is that these young fellas are the literal translation of the Turkish word for a young man: delikanlı (crazy blooded). These learners have high levels of energy, just like their child-learner counterparts. In addition to their energy levels, they also seek meaningful instruction, a trait which is more apparent in teenage learners than child learners. If they don’t get meaningful instruction, they sleep. This is true, since the students in Bahçelievler High School tend to sleep during the lessons that are not interesting enough to take part in. Similarly, this was what I had been through in my own high school years. Now, in our point of view as teachers, this might represent that the class is having problems according to the rules of classroom management. However, this might also show us that our educational activities, or simply what we put in that class hour isn’t found to be interesting by the students. Therefore, I believe that teenagers are well indicators of the activities’ interest levels; they prefer to sleep! Yet, this belief system might mislead us in some cases; there are students with chronic sleep behavior who sleep almost in every class hour.
In my case with the students in Bahçelievler High School, our mentor teacher allowed her students to sleep in the class hours, but she also informed them about their final grade which would be affected by their sleepiness during the lessons. This is a good idea since it ensures some sort of an independence in the class; the students can listen to the teacher, or not. Instead of warning the students one by one, which is a horrible strategy that a teacher can use, allowing the students to sleep during the lesson is indeed a better one. However, I would try to do my best to appeal to the ones that are sleeping before letting them sleep. I would add some jokes, talk about their daily lives, and find personally attractive discussion topics. This was what I did in my teaching there. There were the ones who fell asleep in my lesson and I think my solution was perfect: I was conducting an activity about present continuous tense and I oftentimes wanted my students to create a sentence that had to include present continuous tense while describing their sleeping peers’ conditions, and the sleeping student that I pointed out immediately felt awkward and came back to world of reality!
Secondly, teenagers often find themselves out of the topic in a class hour:
-Wow! This babe looks so hot today! – Where did Ali buy his jacket from?It looks awesome. –Buying an Etnies shoes is a cool th- Ah yes, teacher. The answer is…. I don’t know.
They care more about their looks than what they score in tests because scoring high in the tests is not a cool thing anymore. You could be labeled as a “nerd”. One specific example from my case is that one my students said “I’d rather buy myself a dress than a book!” in the classroom. In fact, this is very natural, since these guys are all teenagers and they’re building up their identities, and being out of the circle would endanger their psychology. If there’s an environment where reading a book isn’t a fashionable thing to do, you wouldn’t be the only one who is reading a book. As teachers, we should be initiators in providing the students with such environments by valuing those intellectual activities.
In sum, teenagers are full of energy and finding ways to direct that energy towards education is crucial, however, we should also bear in mind that their reckless behaviors are natural.
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